Graduation is right around the corner. If you’re just now realizing that you’ve forgotten to take pictures, don’t fear. Here’s a list of the ten best places to take your senior photos, all within an-hour-and-a-half drive from campus.
1) Humphrey’s Peak | Not for the Faint of Heart | Distance: 30 minutes to trailhead + 10 Miles Round Trip | Difficult
This picturesque location is the ideal place to snap a few pictures in celebration of your academic achievement. While it might sound daunting, the hike is worth it. At the top, you can see all of Flagstaff, Oak Creek Canyon, and even the Grand Canyon. This is no doubt going to be the best background you’ve had for a photo. Think of it as a metaphor for the journey you’ve just taken during college.
2) Aspen Nature Loop | Plan Ahead for this Beauty | Distance: 30 Minutes to trailhead + 1.6 Miles Round Trip | Easy
(Image: Karen J. Renner)
Depending on when you’re reading this article, Flagstaff's famous fall colors may not be available. However, the Aspen Nature Loop is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places to snap a photo for graduation. The looming aspen trees with their bright white trunks make a vivid background for any graduation-clad visitors there may be.
3) Buffalo Park | Shortest Hike| Distance: 15 Minutes 2.2 Miles Round Trip | Easy
(Image: Karen J. Renner)
So you’ve seen the other items on this list, and you’re thinking, “Are they crazy? Ain’t no way I’m hiking through the woods for a couple of pictures!” If that’s the case, have no fear. Buffalo Park is one of the shortest “hikes” on this list. It’s really more of just a walk in the park—Buffalo Park, to be exact. This location features long, yellow grass with level terrain, a few trees dispersed here and there, and beautiful mountains surrounding the location.
4) The Arboretum at Flagstaff | Bring the Truck | 15 Minutes
(Image: The Arboretum at Flagstaff)
If you’re planning to take your grad photos at the Arboretum, we recommend you bring a truck, but if you don’t have one, that’s okay. Just make sure to drive slowly, and don’t go during severe weather. Once you make it, you won’t regret the car wash after. It is a beautiful “museum of trees” with a variety of plants and wildlife as well as fields of flowers that make for the perfect photo op. Keep in mind that the Arboretum is closed from November 1st to April 14th and that there is $10 admission charge, per person.
5) Riordan Mansion State Historic Park | If You’re a Fan of History | Distance: 5 Minutes
(Image: Arizona State Parks)
Maybe you’re a history major, or maybe you just love the look of historic buildings. Either way, you won’t regret having your pictures taken at Riordan Mansion State Historic Park. You can choose to do the tour for $10 a person, or you can do the self-guided tour for free. While we recommend doing the guided tour to take a closer look into Flagstaff’s history, if you’re just there for the pics, then you’re only going to want the self-guided tour. The woodlands and the beautiful buildings create a whimsical backdrop for photos.
6) Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument | Stand Out Colors | Distance: 30 Minutes
(Image: Stephen J. Krieg)
Don’t be worried about getting burnt up; this volcano hasn’t erupted for over 900 years. Sunset Crater’s majesty will not disappoint. The area is surrounded by miles of green grasslands and decorated with beautiful black cinder, evidence of the historic eruption. Plan to spend $25 (unless you have a park’s pass) per vehicle to enter the park. Don’t plan on hiking to the top though as this was banned to protect the moment.
7) Kissing Point at Lowell | Most Accessible | Distance: 10 Minutes
(Image: Steve DaCosta)
On your way up to Lowell Observatory, keep your eyes out for an outcrop off to the left that looks over the whole city. You won’t be able to miss it considering it is one of the most popular places in the town for students to pull over and—you guessed it—make out! Ignoring those who are closed in their cars, take a few steps close to the edge, and take a picture with the entirety of Flagstaff as your backdrop. If you have a good camera, it is especially beautiful at night.
8) Ashurst Lake | Perfect for the Outdoorsman | Distance: 40 Minutes
(Image: Karen J. Renner)
This location is perfect for those looking to get some pictures by a gorgeous lake, with the San Francisco Peaks just reaching over the horizon. Don’t worry if we’re having a dry spell- this lake is famous for holding water no matter the weather. Keep in mind, though, getting to this lake requires a 14-mile drive on non-paved washboard, meaning that it will be a long trek. It’s definitely worth it, though.
9) Grand Falls | Most Exotic | Distance: 1.5 Hours 0.6 Miles Round Trip | Easy
This location might require a bit of planning as you’ll want to ensure that you’re visiting when the water is at its best. Wait until there’s been a rainstorm or the snow has started to melt, and then head over for picturesque, scenic views. It is about a one-hour drive on a dirt road off of I-40, so bring snacks, and make sure your car is in good, working condition. Your pictures are sure to impress, especially if the water is flowing.
10) In Front of your Building | Most Important | Distance: Depends!
(Image: Kinney Construction Services)
This may seem like one of the strangest places to do your graduation photos, but it should be the most obvious. Make sure you take at least one photo in your cap and gown in front of the building in which you had the majority of your classes. You spent years studying in this building in preparation to get your degree; it deserves love! Most buildings are attractive on the outside, and having that memory will be something you cherish forever.
P.S. If you’re looking for some pose-ideas and general picture-taking tips, check out this article: https://digital-photography-school.com/tips-posing-people-outdoor-portraits/.